VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican issued an urgent appeal Thursday, May 8, for the release of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The abduction of the young girls three weeks ago was the latest instance of the “horrible forms of violence” for which the militant Islamic group has become known in Nigeria, said the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
“The denial of any kind of respect for life and for the dignity of human beings, even the most innocent, vulnerable and defenseless, calls for the strongest condemnation,” Lombardi said.
He added that the kidnappings aroused the most heartfelt feelings of compassion for the victims and a sense of horror for the physical and spiritual suffering and the incredible humiliation they have suffered.
“We hope and pray that Nigeria, thanks to the commitment of all who are in a position to help, may find the way to end the situation of conflict and hateful terrorism which is a source of incalculable suffering,” he said.
Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan said Wednesday, May 7, that his country was shocked and shamed by the kidnappings.
The girls were abducted by heavily armed militants from a boarding school in the northern town of Chibok, provoking condemnation from around the world. There were also reports that 11 other girls were kidnapped from a second school Tuesday, May 6.
The kidnappings and subsequent threat by Boko Haram’s leader to “sell” the schoolgirls have overshadowed a meeting of the World Economic Forum that opened in the Nigerian city of Abuja late Wednesday.
The U.S., England and France have dispatched teams of experts to Nigeria in a bid to help rescue the girls.